Jake Mendel | On Track: Might be time to consider picking up the sticks

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Since 1988, John Madden Football, or just Madden, has been a must for any football fan.

My birthday aligns with the game's August release date, helping to scratch that football itch just weeks before the NFL season begins.

Not only was Madden a great way to play with your favorite players (and even to make you think they're better than they really are), but it gave you a good idea of the key players on just about every team.

For a four- to five-year stretch, I even went to midnight releases for the game, seeing people out the door at either GameStop or Walmart with some of the most unique jerseys, showcasing their fandom.

I remember around 2010 when a local venue would host its own Madden Tournament. They'd set up roughly six TVs each under a canopy. After a rough first season at the tournament, I decided to come back and redeem myself.

I returned the following year to the same jokes about why on earth would I bring the Dolphins, one of the worst teams in the game. However, this year was different.

After a win or two, I felt that competitive edge start to kick in as I blew away the field by pitching the ball to Reggie Bush (who will go down as a very underrated running back, but I digress).

Long story short, I made it to the championship round with a brand-new system of my choice on the line and had the opportunity to play on a movie screen at The Beacon. In theory, a very cool idea, but wow was it tough and I probably wouldn't do it again.

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Riding with the Dolphins was plenty of fun, especially with a chance to win a tournament. However, my opponent had a pretty sweet opportunity in playing me — I beat his brother in the previous round.

With a full scouting report at his disposal, he handed me an L. The reason I am sharing this story isn't to brag that a washed gamer was once kind of decent, but the opportunity these tournaments present, especially in a time when there are no sports to be played.

The original idea of sport had nothing to do with fans in the crowd or the idea of working to get to the professional level. The "original" athletes did it for pride, which was deemed "pure" (and for some reason this same ideology is the case to not pay college athletes... ). Times have changed, of course, and I played in front of crowds with money on the line.

Currently, Korean Baseball is the only thing on TV and our Howard Herman did an excellent write-up of a recent game. However, that may not scratch that competitive itch for a lot of people. Generally speaking, what was once known as America's pastime has taken quite a hit over the last decade or two.

My point is, nobody picks up a baseball bat or goes to the park to play basketball for the first time with the focus of becoming professional. The same thing is most certainly true for someone who has picked up a controller. That idea of sport lives outside of the "traditional" games we've come to know and love.

When the word E-Sports is brought up, people often scoff at the idea. The thing is, that skill and concentrated power of will (along all those other word's in Fort Minor's "Remember the Name"), which make traditional sports so special, exist in E-Sports. I am not trying to make you go out and buy a bunch of merchandise from professional Call of Duty players. Instead, the idea here is that the park is big enough for every game to be played.

Try out one of the games featured as an E-Sport as a viewer, or even a player. It may just be able to scratch that sporting itch you haven't been able to reach with no "traditional" sports flooding the airwaves.

Jake Mendel can be reached at jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.


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